The start of another school year is almost upon us.
Which means only one thing: Jeff had to waste another perfectly fine weekend moving his kid back to college.
Luckily this is senior year, so I hopefully won’t be repeating this endeavor too many more times. Or if I do, at least it won’t be at VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
I wrote a column three years ago about my reaction to the school. Spoiler alert: it was a bad reaction. But I’ve had more time to absorb more information about the school and city, so had my opinion changed? Yes, I now hate it even more.
First, understand that Wake Forest is in the middle of Winston-Salem, but it has a campus. There is an entrance with security guards patrolling so that folks can’t just wander onto the grounds for no good reason.
VCU is in the middle of an older section of Richmond. There is no official campus. Buildings have popped up here and there amidst businesses and old houses and apartment buildings. There are no gates; random people are wandering around all the time.
Right outside the freshmen dorms is Monroe Park, a seven-acre area sometimes frequented by homeless people. Not to be all heartless, but sometimes people are homeless because they suffer from mental illness and don’t have medication — untreated mental patients have the potential to be dangerous.
As I wrote three years ago, “This is my one and only child. I want an electric fence with razor wire on top. Snipers with rubber bullets or those shotguns that fire bean bags.”
On one of my trips to VCU I stopped at a McDonald’s for lunch. I found out later that a car was stolen from that parking lot in the prior week. And a month or so later, there was a shootout near a bus station not far from there.
While she was showing me around campus her freshman year, Sarah brought up a used book store she’d like to visit, but it’s over on Broad Street. There have been some shootings in that section of the street, she said, and not at three in the morning, either. These have been at 6-7 p.m.
She pointed out cut-through alleys that they avoid, including one where she added, “I’m pretty sure I saw a drug deal going down over there.”
Another street is okay to pass in the daytime, but there are a lot of drunks staggering through there after dark.
Even the sidewalks themselves are a hazard, with old cobblestones that have shifted over the years, creating an uneven surface that can twist an ankle in a heartbeat.
Remember a few paragraphs back when I said “the freshmen dorms” at VCU? That’s because only that grade gets a dorm room. The school has two tall, slender buildings (about 18 floors) but that is it. Sophomores and up must find somewhere to live, which means my kid has now moved into her fifth different apartment in the past two-plus years.
On my recent trip, we had to move all of her stuff out of one building and take it a couple of blocks to another.
Upon entering the apartment, I see a letter on the fridge from a tenant on the fifth floor. He is suing the slum lord for not taking care of the cockroach problem and is asking other tenants to forward him cell phone photos of roaches.
Sarah lived in this apartment for a year and never mentioned to me that there were roaches. She didn’t want me to worry. This complicated moving as a couple of boxes had to be thrown out because roaches had moved in. Other possessions had to be sterilized so they wouldn’t infect the new place.
The elevators in the building were barely wide enough for me to walk through without turning sideways, which made it very difficult to move possessions. It doubled the number of trips necessary and meant that we couldn’t use the large rolling cart that the school could have provided for the move.
At the new apartment, there were two flights of stairs to climb just to reach the elevator. What? There was a secure door to pass through between the two flights, so I put a brick down to prop the door open so that I could make it up the steps without stopping and setting my load down.
One of the new neighbors came along and picked up the brick. I said that I did that so I could get my load up the stairs. He looked right at me, turned around and went inside, letting the door shut on me and my load. And he kept the brick.
Lawd, I hate that city.
Now has come the big news. The new lease has already been signed on the apartment, but VCU has informed us that scholarship and grant money has dried up, and the lower classes get preference just like with the dorm rooms. So here is my daughter entering senior year, and the university says we are going to have to come up with $17,000.
Sarah has been working for a week to try to get this improved, but now the answer is either to get a student loan for $10,000 for just one year or to try to overload the fall semester and graduate in December.
I can’t imagine a university being run any more inept. One year the school twice “lost” the digital FAFSA form that parents have to fill out every year in order to qualify for financial aid.
The only silver lining to this storm cloud of doom is that at least my kid will soon be done with this school and someday down the road we can have a laugh at how ludicrous it all seems.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.